Monday 23 April 2018

Kingdom strike back to scupper drive for five

Kerry 0-20 Dublin 1-16

Rory Kerr

It was a poignant week for the Kingdom as the man who many considered their greatest ever forward, Colm Cooper, decided to step down after a glittering 14 year career that saw him claim four all ireland winners medals and eight all stars.

In the days that followed many would draw up their own lists of their all time forwards and perhaps surprisingly missing from that list was Diamuid Connolly.

The Vincents man remains something of an enigma, a loose cannon at times but his 30th minute black card in Sunday's decider, the fourth between the two, was one of the big turning points of the game.

It was Connolly's third black card offense in 18 months and his needless challenge on Peter Crowley left Dublin short of their most natural scoring forward.

Certainly when Dublin have looked at that little bit of inspiration they have always turned to Connolly and as the game wore on they were in badly in need of his genius.

Which isn't to say Dublin weren't short of some quality forwards and Ciaran Reddin, contesting his first league decider, popped up with two good points from the centre forward position.

But as the Kerry corner backs tightened up on a Dublin inside line and Kerry began to gain a foothold in the middle field, Dublin needed to be inch perfect with their passing and late on in the game, the management could only watch on and one speculative pass went harmlessly over the endline.

One could also point to the beginning of the second half when Kerry won a series of close in frees which were lapped up by Paul Geaney.

Kerry had by then turned the screw and would have probably put the game to bed just short of the hour mark when Kevin McCarthy fluffed a glorious chance.

But this was to be Kerry's day. Admittedly Paul Mannion's 62 minute goal would bring Dublin back into a game they had been chasing for most of the second half.

But perhaps inevitably having spent quite a number of games in this year's league chasing their opponents coat-tails, their luck ran out.

Admittedly when Dean Rock had landed a late free deep into injury time, it looked as if their might be another twist in the tail.

But Kerry having failed to beat Dublin in the previous five attempts were not to be outdone as a last ditch free by Rock into the Hill end came back of the keeper's land hand upright.

And so ended Dublin's mammoth 36 match unbeaten run which stretches back to to two years. Kerry were the last team to beat them and Sunday's two point win, coming as it did forty years after the 1977 margin, gave the Kingdom their 20th league success.

Of course Dublin would go on to beat Kerry in an epic 1977 All Ireland semi-final and perhaps mindful of the long summer ahead for both teams, Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice was not over playing Kerry's victory at the weekend.

'If Dublin had beaten us today it wouldn't have been the end of the world, we still have players to come back, it's still the month of April, there is a lot of work to be done for championship.'

And Fitzmaurice was certainly placing too much stock on Dublin's recent dominance over the kingdom.

'I think you are kind of portraying that there is this psychological damage there and that every time [Kerry lose to Dublin] we are going down the road banging our head off the window of the bus.

'We come out and give it everything we have. We have come up short but we have come up short going at them, bringing the best out of them; the Kerry-Dublin games have been some of the best games that have been played in the last 10 years.

In the broader scheme of things, this may not go down as the most important game ever played between the two but it did tell us a few things.

One is that something isn't quite right about Dublin at the moment. Things may look rosier in the Summer when Con O'Callaghan comes into the mix.

One would expect him to fill that gap that Bernard Brogan will eventually vacate after many years of loyal service to the Dublin jersey.

Brogan has been a peripheral figure of late for Dublin and on Sunday for all his hard work off the ball, the Plunketts man drew an ignominious blank.

The old reliables like Eoghan O'Gara, Kevin McManamon and Michael Darragh Macauley were also largely anonymous and as Jim Gavin prepares for their Leinster opener against the winners of Carlow and Wexford on June 3rd, it is in the knowledge that there is much work to be done.

Perhaps their later than usual team holiday in the new year which saw them forgo this year's O'Byrne cup Campaign was a mistake in earnest which some claiming they have been playing catch up ever since.

Admittedly they were in the ascendancy early on and the second quarter would see them open up the first telling lead of the game with points from Reddin, Kilkenny and Connolly opening up a three point lead by the 22nd minute.

A nice solo effort from Reddin would culminate in the Maurs man landing his second of the day before the half hour but an injury time point from Jack Barry would ensure that Kerry would trail by only a point at the break.

Dublin traditionally have been known to start strongly in the second half but it was Kerry who took the game to them with the Geaney cousins, Michael and Paul firing the Kingdom into the five point lead with quarter of an hour to go.

Dublin to their credit did not lie down and when Mannion slipped the ball under a brace of Kerry defenders, we had a game again.

But Kerry were not found wanting with an inspirational point from Bryan Sheehan proving decisive as Kerry held on for victory.

Kerry: Brendan Kealy; Ronan Shanahan, Mark Griffin, Fionn Fitzgerald; Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy 0-1, Peter Crowley; Davod Moran 0-3(0-1 45'), Jack Barry 0-1; Johnathan Lyne, Michael Geaney, Donnchadh Walsh; Kevin McCarthy 0-1, Paul Geaney 0-8 (5f), Jack Savage 0-1. Subs: Gavin Crowley for Lyne (bc, 27), Darren O'Sullivan for Savage (59), Barry John Keane for McCarthy (62), Bryan Sheehan 0-1 for Walsh (67), Anthony Maher for Barry (70), Adrian Spillane for M Geaney (72).

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Philly McMahon 0-1, Michael Fitzsimons, Darren Daly; James McCarthy 0-1, Cormac O'Sullivan, Eric Lowndes; Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-2; Paul Flynn 0-1, Diarmuuid Connolly 0-1, Ciaran Reddin 0-2; Bernard Brogan, Dean Rock 0-6(0-4f), Paddy Andrews. Subs: Niall Scully for Connolly (bc, 30), Paul Mannion 1-2 for Andrews (41), Michael Darragh Macauley for Reddin (48), Kevin McManamon for O'Sullivan (49), Davy Byrne for Lowdes (60), Eoghan O'Gara for Flynn (68).

Referee Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).

Fingal Independent